Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Not So Snarky

I'm sure some of you have seen the It Gets Better project aimed at young people grappling with their sexual orientation. There have been a lot of really moving videos posted by celebrities and ordinary people with the theme that it does get better. A number of bloggers have posted about this. Franklin at the Panopticon posted a brilliant entry on this topic.

I bring this up not to talk about sexuality or not to reveal some deep secret about myself, but instead I bring it up to talk about the experience of being a new mom. A friend of mine just had a sweet, beautiful baby girl after a number of trials and troubles. She is now struggling with learning how to breastfeed her daughter, how to manage her family with this new person, the fluctuating hormones, meddling family members, everything. She is one of my fellow posters on a internet discussion board I post on frequently, and I posted a message to her that I can sum up in the words "It gets better." I've expanded it a bit, but I wanted to share it with both of my fans, so maybe, if someday, you know someone in this situation, you can send them this, and they'll maybe find a ray of hope that yes, it does get better.

When the Bug was a newborn and I was a shellshocked new mom, it was hard. The form my postpartum hormonal shifts took is that, for about 3-4 weeks, every night after dinner, I got the weepies. (This is not to say that I didn't get the weepies at other random times, just that the postprandial weepies happened like clockwork.) I would be sitting at the table, having a normal conversation, and all of a sudden, I'd be crying. Not much, not big heaving sobs, just watery eyes and an inability to deal with even the simple task of putting my own plate in the dishwasher. I mentioned this to my doctor, and she said that if it kept up, to call and they'd medicate me, and I was frankly, ready to beg for the pills then and there. But I gave it a few weeks, and by 6 weeks after the Bug was born, the random weepies had mostly passed.

Breastfeeding is incredibly hard. If you give a baby a bottle of formula, you know exactly how much you made, what the nutritional components of it are, how much the little dear consumed. When offering the breast you know almost none of that. You know that they latched, they ate some, then they got full and stopped. Or maybe the baby didn't get full. Maybe she got distracted, maybe she fell asleep, maybe she just gave up. These things don't come with dials like a gas tank (boobs or babies). It would be easier if they did. It can be incredibly tempting to just give up and formula feed because you know exactly what they're getting. Those first few weeks, where it takes 45 minutes for one feeding, and then, half and hour later, the little screaming mass is hungry again, it is so tempting to just give in. Then, maybe, a helpful family member says "OH, just give her a little formula, it won't hurt her," and all of a sudden, the little dear sleeps better than she ever has, and your confidence is shot, when really it isn't because they got any more nutrition than they would have from nursing, it is really just because formula is harder to digest, so they don't get hungry quite as fast. Those first 6-8 weeks, where the babe goes through at least 3 major growth spurts are exhausting, even if you are willing to give up everything you are accustomed to doing around the house and eat whatever oddness your DH throws together, and live in dirty, spit-up smelling clothes. (The spit-up scented clothes happen anyway)

The first few weeks of trying to work out being a breastfeeding pair are really, really hard. And throughout the Bug's first year, I had many times where I felt like nothing more to her than a meal on wheels.

Then we had colic. And reflux. I thought I would never sleep again. I found out that in addition to the local morning programming that starts at 5 am, there are shows called Early Today and Earlier Today. (F@#k you, NBC. For doing anything to acknowledge or legitimize those early morning hours.) I also learned a lot about complex real estate investment schemes that I never learned in real estate school.

Then, it got better. I can't explain exactly how, except. The Bug (like most babies) grew out of the colic. Our awesomesauce pediatrician prescribed Zantac for the reflux.  She and I both learned how nursing was going to work for us. She got more efficient at it... where feedings had taken 45 minutes to an hour, she was done in 20 minutes. She started smiling and interacting other than using her signs and signals to show me she was hungry.

It got better. I didn't plan on nursing her into her toddler years, but she still asks for it. She does fine when I'm not around, but if I am, she furiously signs "more" and pulls at my shirt at times. Do I still sometimes wish she didn't? Oh, sure. (I hate teeth.) Could I cut her off right now? Sure. Would she or I suffer any emotional damage? Probably nothing long term. Would her nutrition be compromised? No. She'd still have plenty to eat, as waffles and bananas don't come from my boobs. But I'm not going to take away one of her favourite things just because I hate teeth. She'll let go of it soon enough.

Here's the things I know are true:

  1. It gets better
  2. Breastfeeding is really, really hard.
  3. It is even harder if you have a thousand visitors in and out of your house or have some other tricky living situation.
  4. It gets better. 
  5. Anyone who counts (including me) will still love you if you can't breastfeed for any reason. 
  6. Getting help for emotional stuff isn't weakness or a sign you are a bad mom. It is a sign that you love your child enough to get the help you need to be a better mommy.
  7. It gets better. I cannot say this enough. It gets better.
(Disclaimer: please seek the help of a qualified person should it seem like nursing isn't going right at all... i.e. your baby is loosing weight, refuses to latch, and so on... or if your postpartum weepies don't go away or get worse. Like any blog, this is just my story of how things worked for us.)

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Paradoxical But True

So, upon realizing that now that the Bug relies much more on my Costco card than on me for her sustenance and weighing myself and discovering an unsettling 10 extra pounds, I signed up for Weight Watchers, I realized the following truism about motherhood:

The child's portion is contained within the mother's portion, but the mother's portion is within the child's portion. 

What I mean by that is this: when we go to a restaurant, I'm not about to spend $4 on a grilled cheese or waffle or whatever for her. Her little tummy is still only a few tablespoons big, so, ordering a full meal seems excessive. However, I do go out of my way to place my order in a way that I'll be able to feed her some of what I order. On a recent road trip, we stopped at a Bob Evans, and I ordered us a waffle and some fruit. She munched briefly on the cantaloupe, ate a quarter of the waffle, and I ate the rest. Later, we split a fruit and yogourt parfait at McDonald's. Her portion was from mine.

However, at home, her favourite foods are Annie's Homegrown Cheddar Bunnies, frozen waffles, and cheese. These things are, actually, pretty yummy. So, on occasion, when cleaning off her tray, my solution is, rather than to throw out perfectly good food or to store away 3 cheddar bunnies and a bite of string cheese, to just eat the thing.  My snack comes out of hers.